“Hold your baby constantly.” “Teach them independence.”
“Answer the second they cry.” “Let them cry if they need to to sleep.”
“Hope that they will eventually work things out for themselves.” “Teach them everything they need to know.”
“Feed them solids when they are ready.” “Never feed them solids before 6 months.”
“Give up your career to stay at home with your child so as to promote attachment and healthy bonding.” “Keep yourself sane by going back to work, at least part-time, and help your kids socialize in nursery.”
“Never give formula – breastfeed only.” “Formula is fine if you can’t breastfeed or don’t want to.”
“All babies are different.” “Babies are essentially the same in the way they learn.”
“Sleep with your baby in your bed, it promotes bonding.” “Never co-sleep. It is dangerous and will harm your marriage as well as your child.”
I don’t know about you, but I am sick and tired of the conflicts in parenting philosophies. It’s just too confusing. And you feel like no matter what way you bring up your baby, you will somehow be damaging them.
One side tells us that leaving your child to cry themselves to sleep will damage them permanently and make them feel unloved, even if you spend the rest of your time lavishing them with affection, and even if it means you don’t sleep and end up shouting, losing your temper and having no patience due to your exhaustion.
The other side tells us that constantly catering to your child’s every need will make them grow up selfish and demanding, and that they are born into the world needing to be taught by their parents skills such as sleeping and eating (as opposed to snacking), even if that means listening to them cry as they learn these skills.
Are you as tired as I am of carrying around all that guilt from one or both of these arguments?!
There is no such thing as the perfect parent.
Nor is there such a thing as the perfect way to parent.
As long as you are not abusing or neglecting your child, then please, join me in breathing out the words kids (and adults) all over the world seem to be singing daily since Frozen came out: let it go.
Because the more we worry and feel guilty, the less we are truly present with our children. And that is what really matters.
So if you leave your child to cry un-hysterically for half an hour because you know that is what it takes for them to get to sleep, then you’re doing ok.
And if you sleep in the same bed as your child because you know that is what works for them, then you’re doing ok.
If you struggled with breastfeeding, or decided it wasn’t for you and went straight for formula, then you’re doing ok (just check there are no forms of sugar in the formula!).
Because we waste too much time feeling guilty (or making others feel guilty) for the way we parent, when we could be spending that time enjoying the children who grow up all too quickly.
So will you join me in encouraging over guilt-ladening? Will you help me to offer grace rather than guilt?
Next time you see a mother formula-feeding an infant while you breastfeed your child, will you keep from judging, knowing that you have no idea what the full story is, and instead gently tell her as you pass her by: “You’re doing really well.”
And if you are the one without children sitting in a church pew with the family of five who are making more noise than you think appropriate in church, will you hold off from judging, and instead smile gently and tell them: “Thank you for bringing them here – it is so important.”
Because isn’t that what all of us as parents long to hear? That as we try our hardest, we are doing ok?
Parenting is a wonderful wonderful calling. But it is often a thankless task, and when our children cannot or do not tell us how well we are doing, the devil comes to us and whispers guilt and comparison and judgment.
But God smiles to Himself, knowing that perhaps we are not doing a perfect job, but we are doing the best we can. And He is proud of us for it.